The United States is within one point of winning the 2017 Presidents Cup after a second straight day of overpowering performance Saturday at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Team USA opened Saturday's action with a second consecutive unbeaten session by going 3-0-1 against the International team in the morning foursomes. The Americans followed it up with more strong play in the afternoon fourball, posting a 3-1-0 record to further increase their lead to 14.5-3.5.
A single victory during Sunday's 12 singles matches will give the United States its seventh Presidents Cup triumph in a row. The Internationals must sweep tomorrow's fixtures to take the Cup.
Saturday Foursomes (USA 3.5—International 0.5)
Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed def. Marc Leishman and Jason Day: 4 and 3
Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson def. Adam Hadwin and Adam Scott: 4 and 3
Kevin Kisner and Phil Mickelson def. Emiliano Grillo and Jhonattan Vegas: 2 and 1
Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas vs. Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen: Halved
Saturday Fourball (USA 3—International 1)
Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth def. Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Day: 2 and 1
Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas def. Jhonattan Vegas and Hideki Matsuyama: 3 and 2
Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman lost to Anirban Lahiri and Si Woo Kim: 1-up
Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson def. Marc Leishman and Branden Grace: 3 and 2
Day 3 Recap
Although there was a clear talent disparity in favor of the United States coming into the week, the level of dominance by the American team has still come as a surprise. The International team has won two matches through three days of competition.
Team USA captain Steve Stricker sent out the pairing of Spieth and Reed first in each of the day's two sessions, and both times they earned the full point to set the tone. Those victories quickly took any wind out of the comeback sails of the Internationals.
No Laying Up summed up the lopsided nature of the event after Spieth and Reed's afternoon win:
No Laying Up @NoLayingUp
Reed and Spieth: 3.5 points International Team: 2.5 points2017-9-30 21:02:01
One trend that carried over to Saturday was the United States' clutch play on the back nine. The international groups had a lead on the front side in three of the four morning matches, but in every case the Americans surged ahead after the turn.
Justin Ray of Golf Channel spotlighted the United States' success on the back nine following the morning session:
Justin Ray @JustinRayGC
Holes won on back nine this week: USA 34 Internationals 15 #PresidentsCup2017-9-30 17:42:52
For a significant portion of the afternoon play it appeared the United States had a realistic chance to clinch the Presidents Cup before the end of Day 3. Winning all of the fourbal matches would have given the Americans enough points, and they were in that position midway through the session.
Lahiri and Kim came to the rescue for the International team, though. They won two straight holes starting at No. 15 to go from one down to one up. A clutch putt from Lahiri on the 17th ensured the U.S. wouldn't be able to reach the 15.5 points necessary to win.
The PGA Tour highlighted one of the few bright spots for Nick Price's team Saturday:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
An emphatic answer from the International Team. #QuickHits https://t.co/adCdhQl8d82017-9-30 21:58:52
Jason Sobel of ESPN joked about the International roster's mindset ahead of the final day:
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelESPN
What are my chances? Not good. Not good like one out of 100? More like one out of a million. So you're telling me there's a chance...2017-9-30 22:11:49
Looking ahead, it would take a collapse of monumental proportions for the United States to let the Cup slip away at this point. There is simply too much firepower on the American side to lose 12 straight matches in singles. It will probably be clinched within the first few fixtures.
The bigger focus may be seeing whether the U.S. team can set a new record for most points by any team in the tournament's history. The current mark is 21.5 by Team USA in the 2000 edition. That's well within range based on how well the current group is playing this week.